Critiques and Reviews

Being Beyond Thinking

Abstract: In the below we query the place of contemplative and/or speculative thought from a viewpoint that centers “merely being” as focus (that is, in the human sense; but yet broadly considered), presenting an argument for the preferability of using this instrument of rational analysis for the purpose of moving beyond it and into a more profound existential stance. That is, we try to think a way (/perspective) by which to overcome “thinking,” such that an “earthier” being-hood might take root. We will frame this study by taking two of Martin Heidegger’s later works on the topic of thinking as our points for critique and departure: firstly his lecture series of 1951-1952 titled “What Calls for Thinking?” (or alternatively translated, “What is Called Thinking?”), and secondly his essay “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking,” which was first published in a French version in 1966 and then appeared in German in 1969. We will find in Heidegger the affixation of a metaphysical ontology (an ascribed transcendence) placed onto “thinking” which appears very similar to many religious concepts of the numinous, and we will therefore have reason to fault this move as unhelpfully mystifying, however natural it may seem to position “thought” thusly. Finally, it will be offered that to close the gap betwixt self and world (i.e., one’s being and Being itself) opened by this (“excessive”) thinking, it is necessary to remove the mediating “trap” between.

Keywords: being; Continental philosophy; Heidegger; thinking

Being Beyond Thinking_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the journal Humanismus, 35 (2024), 26-41.

Reading Dialectically: Kleinberg on Emmanuel Levinas' Talmudic Lectures

Abstract:In Emmanuel Levinas's Talmudic Turn: Philosophy and Jewish Thought (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2021), Ethan Kleinberg has given us a work that is much more biographical than it is philosophical, but in that the details of the thinker's background and subsequently related concerns and educational goals are engaging and informative. Levinas delivered a series of lectures on the Talmud to the Colloque des intellectual juifs de langue française in Paris from 1960 to 1989, and Kleinberg demonstrates how these talks were influenced by Levinas' commitments to Western philosophy, French Enlightenment Universalism, and the methods of reading Talmud that he had studied under the mysterious master Shushani. Kleinberg considers four of these sessions, giving them attention in "doubled" chapters that are composed of a column of biographical text on the left side of the page and lecture content and comments on the right side of the page, compelling the reader to choose which she will approach first before later going back to the beginning for the other. An introduction and conclusion, written in the standard format, bookend these. Levinas sought to give voice and confidence to a rational Jewish identity in the aftermath of the Second World War and the horrors of the Holocaust, and Kleinberg's book helps us understand how reading Talmud was directed towards this; it is especially the relationship between reader and text that we examine in our review.

Keywords: book review; Emmanuel Levinas; Ethan Kleinberg; identity; Jewish education; philosophy; religion; Talmud

Reading Dialectically: Kleinberg on Emmanuel Levinas' Talmudic Lectures_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the online journal Phenomenological Reviews, June 23, 2022. <>.

The “Faith”-ful social: von Wussow on Leo Strauss’ legacy

Abstract: Philipp von Wussow has given us an excellent and engaging study of Leo Strauss’ oeuvre in his compact and accessible Leo Strauss and the Theopolitics of Culture (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 2020). In the below, although I will consider the book generally, particular focus shall be given – as von Wussow himself does – to the centrality and importance of Philosophy and Law, Strauss’ publication of 1935, and then to a lesser extent his 1967 talk/essay “Jerusalem and Athens: Some Preliminary Reflections”, which repeated Philosophy and Law’s underlying thematic thrust. With the reader’s permission I will endeavor to do so from my own perspective, one prompted both by Strauss and by von Wussow’s interaction with Strauss, a viewpoint which situates itself around the idea that, as with every human structuring, politics of course always gets involved in religion; but further: religion itself (as revelation, as a social(ly-oriented) phenomenon) is political. What this means for praxis, ritually and conceptually, we shall try to draw out, and thus we join the game of Strauss that von Wussow teaches and illumines. While we may be unlikely to find any hard conclusions therefrom, we might nevertheless arrive at some enlightening reflections of our own.

Keywords: book review; culture; Leo Strauss; Philipp von Wussow; philosophy; reason; religion; revelation

The “Faith”-ful Social: von Wussow on Leo Strauss’ Legacy_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the online journal Phenomenological Reviews, July 15, 2021. <>.

The Crucifix and the candle: Gschwandtner on (lived) Orthodox liturgy

Abstract: In her book Welcoming Finitude: Toward a Phenomenology of Orthodox Liturgy (New York: Fordham University Press, 2019), Christina M. Gschwandtner seeks firstly to establish a basis for a phenomenological study of specifically Orthodox Christian liturgical practices and then proceeds on such, yielding along the way background theological considerations and phenomenological concerns, the latter mostly from the French tradition and by thinkers orientated more along Roman Catholic lines. In this undertaking Gschwandtner wants to fill in the gap she finds left by a dearth of philosophical work directed at Orthodoxy, and also to show that – whatever Heidegger’s arguments about religion being ontic while phenomenology is ontological – it is possible to apply phenomenological methodology to such a setting. The below is an engaged review of this work, following Gschwandtner’s chapter divisions and providing summaries of what I found most pertinent with arguments and interactions before finally offering some generalized reader comments.

Keywords: book review; Christina M. Gschwandtner; liturgy; Orthodox Christianity; phenomenology

The Crucifix and the candle: Review of Gschwandtner's Welcoming Finitude_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the online journal Phenomenological Reviews, March 01, 2020. <>.

Asymmetry, suffering, and coping: Running alongside Benatar

Abstract: David Benatar has presented and defended a powerful argument for adopting an anti-natalist stance, avoiding procreation, and embracing the extinction of humanity. His is work that deserves to be taken seriously and responded to with caution and care. In the below we will attempt such an undertaking, focusing on two aspects of Benatar’s thought in particular: asymmetry and suffering. Although we will find weaknesses in Benatar’s analyses on asymmetry and suffering, we will not thereby seek to reject the anti-natalist conclusions that Benatar draws from them, yet nor will we conversely seek to accept them. Instead we will leave the issue open and move into some parallel thoughts on the topic of coping, on the “Now what?” and the “…and so…” that each of us who find ourselves alive inevitably face. In the hard light of life as we come to know it, what are any of us to do?

Keywords: anti-natalism; asymmetry; coping; David Benatar; suffering

Asymmetry, suffering, and coping_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the Journal of the Philosophy of Life, 9:2 (2019), 1-21.

How realist was Hume's self?: A critique of Kristjánsson on Hume

Abstract: The question of the self, of whether or not there is a core part to us that forms our inner essence or absolute nature, has been with us almost since our beginning. For centuries philosophical arguments over the self took the form of discussing the nature of the self for its existence was taken to be a given. This assumption has been increasingly called into question, however, resulting in the current climate in which the absence of a self is presumed. Contrary to this trend Kristján Kristjánsson has recently proposed a realist self that allegedly rests upon the emotions, claiming a Humean foundation for his account. In the following that claim is called into question through a close examination of Hume’s approach to the self in his A Treatise of Human Nature (1739) and an interpretation of Hume’s work that differs both from Kristjánsson’s reading and from the traditional reading is offered.

Keywords: anti-realist/realist; David Hume; Kristján Kristjánsson; personal identity; the self; whole person

How realist was Hume's self?: A critique of Kristjánsson on Hume_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the journal Bulletin of the University of Kochi, 66 (2017), 67-77.

Against Rorty: On judging Heidegger

Abstract: In an essay arguing for an approach to Martin Heidegger and his works that views him in an alternative light via a consideration of what he may have done under differing conditions, and that sees his philosophy as containing tools that are of worth, Richard Rorty makes the case that certain chance events in Heidegger’s life contributed negatively to his moral character. Had circumstances been different, Rorty asserts, Heidegger would not have become a Nazi and therefore critics of his writings who condemn them by association are in error. However, fault is found with the importance Rorty places on the moral causality of chance events in the following, and it is suggested that critics are perhaps correct not to fully sever the thought from the man.

Keywords: chance events; legacy; Martin Heidegger; moral character; Nazism; Richard Rorty

Against Rorty: On Judging Heidegger_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published on Philosopher, December 11, 2013. <>.

Durkheim and society as a moral entity

Abstract: A brief synopsis of Emile Durkheim's notion of society as a separately existing entity and the influence it was purported to have over individuals. Critical comments are offered that recognize the validity of Durkheim's analysis of what an increasing division of labor may bring to society as well as his emphases on group cohesion and morality yet that fault his view of society as a morally controlling Other and his failure to recognize intrasocial group conflicts. 

Keywords:  Durkheim; group conflict; the individual; morality; society

Durkheim and society as a moral entity_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the journal Surugadai University Studies, 45 (2013), 169-177.

Critique of Hannah Arendt's On Violence

Abstract:  Hannah Arendt's On Violence was written in 1969 as a response to contemporary events in the United States and elsewhere: particularly the student uprisings, African American civil rights movement, and the increasing levels of terrorism in the US and Europe. While noting Arendt's valuable contribution in differentiating the terms "power" and "violence", the work is criticized for its ambiguous approach to the use of violence, its absence of psychological considerations, and its lack of depth when discussing political legitimacy. 

Keywords:  Arendt; nonviolence; political legitimacy; psychological effects; violence

Critique of Hannah Arendt's On Violence_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the journal Surugadai University Studies, 44 (2012), 155-162.